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How genes make up your mind: Individual biological differences and value-based decisions


  • Ramsøy, Thomas Z.
  • Skov, Martin


Neuroeconomics is the multidisciplinary study of value-based decision-making. One of the core topics is how emotions affect decision-making. Developments in economic models of decision-making have been influenced by technological innovations and empirical findings in cognitive neuroscience. Now, a recent approach in cognitive neuroscience, often referred to as "imaging genetics", promises to make significant contributions to our understanding of both behavioral and neural aspects of value-based decision-making. Recent work has demonstrated the role of neurotransmitter alterations in clinical states such as Parkinson's disease, depression and anxiety, and how this may affect decision behavior. However, these insights are limited through their focus on extreme neuropathology, which sheds little light on similar functions in healthy individuals. Here, we present and discuss studies of the role of drug-induced and genetically driven changes in neurotransmitter levels, and their effects on value-based decision-making. Following this, we argue that in healthy subjects, individual variance in decision behavior can be explained by such genetic factors, and gene-environment interactions. We suggest that this development should be used in neuroeconomic research in order to both improve behavioral models, by stressing the biological nature of individual variance, and through the improvement of our general understanding of the brain basis of value-based decision-making.

Suggested Citation

  • Ramsøy, Thomas Z. & Skov, Martin, 2010. "How genes make up your mind: Individual biological differences and value-based decisions," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 818-831, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:31:y:2010:i:5:p:818-831

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zak, Paul J. & Fakhar, Ahlam, 2006. "Neuroactive hormones and interpersonal trust: International evidence," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 412-429, December.
    2. Camelia Kuhnen & Brian Knutson, 2005. "The Neural Basis of Financial Risk Taking," Experimental 0509001, EconWPA.
    3. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    4. Bechara, Antoine & Damasio, Antonio R., 2005. "The somatic marker hypothesis: A neural theory of economic decision," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 336-372, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Witt, Ulrich & Binder, Martin, 2013. "Disentangling motivational and experiential aspects of “utility” – A neuroeconomics perspective," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 27-40.
    2. Solnais, Céline & Andreu-Perez, Javier & Sánchez-Fernández, Juan & Andréu-Abela, Jaime, 2013. "The contribution of neuroscience to consumer research: A conceptual framework and empirical review," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 68-81.


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